COVID-19 cancels annual Farm to Table dinner once again

By Minuet Bando, May 11, 2021

Since 2015, Cal Poly Pomona’s annual Farm to Table dinners welcomed Broncos and the surrounding community in sharing a day to celebrate the accomplishments made in the Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture. However, due to concerns over COVID-19, the spring dinner was canceled once more.

With COVID-19 risk and large group gatherings remaining prohibited, AGRIscapes Outreach Director Craig Walters determined the dinner will not happen this year — especially when preparations take months in advance.

Though Walters shared that he is “disappointed” to cancel the spring dinner for the second time, he anticipates returning soon. As vaccines continue to flourish and restrictions lift, AGRIscape hopes to relaunch the Farm to Table dinner next spring.

“Most of the time, we’re using things that we would be growing normally, but in some cases, special items have been grown specifically for the dinner,” said Walters. “We would expect that process to start early of 2022, probably in January of next year, so that we can get everything planted and harvest when it’s time.”

The campus community gathered annually in person during the previous Farm to Table dinners. (Courtesy of Lisa Kessler)

With guidance from local chefs, CPP students receive opportunities to participate in the event as cooks, servers and planners to gain industry knowledge while building hands-on experience.

“We would integrate things that the Brew Works made, and we would integrate different wines,” said the college’s Interim Dean Lisa Kessler. “It’s a multi-disciplinary team effort.”

Each year, the spring dinners present the Jim Hicks Agricultural Achievement Award, an award recognizing students exemplifying unique achievements and contributions to agriculture. The award is named after Jim Hicks, the first 2015 recipient, and a long-time supporter of CPP’s agricultural education.

“We’ve always honored a leader in the field of agriculture,” said Kessler. “We’ve done the event for five years, and we’ve been able to recognize really wonderful leaders in a variety of disciplines. I hope we can keep that going again.”

With 20 years of experience, Executive Chef Tonya Tardd has worked in four Farm to Table dinners. In her experience, collaboration is what makes the event flow.

“The best part was really the whole event — just the whole event coming together — and having enough time to really plan and collaborate the many steps, especially when it comes to harvesting the items from the farm to be able to utilize those items on the day of service,” said Tardd.

According to Walters, the Farm to Table dinners are not only a fundraiser that provides more opportunities for students to take part in learn-by-doing activities, but they are also a way to reach out to the community and enlighten them about the produce being grown by the students

“All in all, it’s great food, great people and a great evening to come together and enjoy Cal Poly,” said Walters.

For more information about the Farm to Table dinners, visit its website at

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